The contretemps over Obamacare and the outrage in the religious community over the Administration’s forcing contraception and abortifacients down the throats of religious employers are the philosophical embodiment of the “fat guy in a little coat” scene from the film Tommy Boy. Tommy, played by Chris Farley, attempts to squeeze into his diminutive co-star David Spade’s jacket and ends up ripping the jacket wide open. Applying the analogy (which is admittedly an imperfect fit, pun intended) to our political moment, the restricting entitlements of modern liberalism clearly do not fit a nation founded upon individual liberty and freedom from government. In Tommy Boy the scene was hilarious. In Obama’s America, it is not.
Modern American Leftists, perfectly and completely embodied in Barack Obama, believe American history hinges on three axes of the 20th century: the progressive era, the New Deal era, and the radicalism of the 1960s. Each period was characterized by a squelching of individual liberty under the auspices of federal efforts to “protect” Americans from various so-called vices. Today Leftists/Progressives view themselves as phase four of this movement. Exhibit A: Hillary Clinton, who proudly branded herself a “progressive,” rather than a liberal, during the 2008 primaries.
Applied politically, this historical myopia allows the American Left to elide any constitutional limits on federal authority by over-reading those provisions empowering the federal government (the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, the Fourteenth Amendment) and disregarding those that restrict federal authority (the Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment, and the 10th Amendment). Exhibit B: Nancy Pelosi, who when asked if Obamacare was constitutional, responded: “Are you serious?” The recent Supreme Court arguments show the Justices answer yes.
What all this reveals is a basic misconception of the source of American rights and privileges. Leftists like Pelosi and Obama believe all rights, freedoms, and privileges emanate from Washington, which dispenses these items to Americans like a beneficent ruler. Yet this formulation is exactly backward: America’s founding documents expressly forbid this interpretation.